Obama makes birth certificate joke on Kenya trip

Updated

If you can’t beat members of the “birther” movement, join ‘em.

That’s the approach President Obama took on Saturday night in Kenya, his father’s homeland, when he made a wisecrack about his birthplace — which suspicious critics have harped on for years.

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“Some of my critics back home might be suggesting I’m here to look for my birth certificate,” Obama said while making a toast at a state dinner hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta. “That’s not the case.”

In 2011, Obama made his birth certificate public after so-called birthers questioned his eligibility to be president, claiming he was not a U.S. citizen. The certificate lists Honolulu, Hawaii, as his place of birth.

But the controversy persisted, with birthers insisting the detailed birth certificate was a fake, and that the president was in fact born in Kenya. The issue resurfaced earlier this week when outspoken Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio told CNN he still believes the birth certificate was forged.

Obama’s quip during the Kenyan state dinner was met with laughs.

His visit to Kenya marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has traveled to the East African nation, and fulfilled a wish of many Kenyans, who see him as one of their own. On Friday evening, Obama reconnected with Kenyan family, some of whom were present at Saturday night’s dinner.

Obama told dinner attendees he came to Kenya in part because his step-grandmother had asked him to.

Obama in Africa: I'm proud to be first Kenyan-American president
President Barack Obama spoke proudly of his Kenyan heritage before a raucous and affectionate crowd in Nairobi on Sunday.

“When she says you do something, you generally have to do it,” he joked.

Earlier Saturday, in a joint news conference with President Kenyatta, Obama hinted at plans for Kenya in his post-White House legacy.

“Part of the challenge I’ve had in the course of my presidency is that given the demands of the job and the bubble, I can’t come here and just go up-country and visit for a weekend,” he said. “The lives of both our peoples can be advanced if both our countries deepened and expanded our cooperation.”

Obama praised the entrepreneurial spirit of the Kenyan people as a way to confront the “insidious threats” that terrorists pose to the region.

He also urged Kenya to reconsider its treatment of gay and lesbian people. Like many African nations, Kenya outlaws homosexuality.

“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread,” Obama said.

Kenyatta quickly dismissed the sensitive topic, calling it a “non-issue.”

That small rift from earlier had smoothed over at Saturday night’s state dinner, where the Nairobi Chamber Orchestra played a cover of Magnetic Fields’ “Book of Love” before the presidents delivered toasts. The leaders shared the stage with Kenyan first lady Margaret Kenyatta and U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

In addition to Obama’s step-grandmother, his half-sister, Auma, was in the audience. The president had backpacked in Kenya three decades ago, but met many of his extended family members for the first time on this visit.

“Mr. Obama, this is not your first trip to Kenya,” Kenyatta said. “But yesterday you arrived riding on the wings of history.” 

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

Barack Obama and Kenya

Obama makes birth certificate joke on Kenya trip

Updated